26.8.14

Case Study Research


Some days ago I finished reading the book Case Study Research (Robert K. Yin, 2009, 219 pages). Although I had some knowledge gathered here and there about research methodologies, this is the first full book on the topic that I have read entirely. And I like what I read!

Research methodologies can be a bit dry topic, but the author does a great job here making this book interesting. I reckon part of the reason is due to the fact that the book is also a defense of the Case Study method, which is easily criticized or downsized in comparison to other more traditional research methodologies, as surveys, experiments and statistical studies.

The main criticism (and one that even someone not versed on the topic can easily think of) is: how can just one case be used to create a more general knowledge? To which the author has a brilliant opposed question: how can just one experiment be generalized to a comprehensive theory? If you think about it, both questions need a careful answer. And this book gives a very solid answer for the first one.

Basically, when studying a contemporary phenomenon, in which the object of study can be affected by its real-life context (and therefore virtually impossible to be analysed in isolation), the case study, when properly done, is very valuable. If you want to understand, for example, why and how some entrepreneurs succeed while others fail, a case study (preferably a multiple-cases study), in which you interview real-life entrepreneurs can be really useful to either either confirm preexisting propositions or establish new ones. And, as with all other research methods, the gathered results, when compounded with several other studies, can help forming a solid scientific theory on the topic later on.

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